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Hydroponic Green Fodder For Sheep:
The following article details about hydroponic green fodder production for sheep farming.
Introduction hydroponic green fodder for sheep:- Well, as we all know the feed / fodder / forage is one of the major components of Sheep farming and the fodder management is a key factor in successful and profitable Sheep farming. Green fodder plays major role in feed of milch animals, thereby providing required nutrients for milk production and health of the dairy animals. Commercial Sheep farmers should have enough land to grow green fodder crops such as hybrid grasses and legume crops. When we grow green fodder crops in open fields, it requires labour and other costs to produce the forage in our field. For healthy Sheep rearing, the fodder should good nutrients as well. In many places, due to climatic conditions or non-availability of land succulent grass is not available for Sheep throughout the year in many regions in India. This condition forces to think of different system to produce green fodder for Sheep throughout the year irrespective of climatic conditions and land availability. This will (hydroponic fodder system) drastically reduce the land cost, feed cost and provides nutrient fodder throughout the year. Today, we are going to talk about hydroponic fodder production system for sheep which is different from the conventional fodder production system for sheep.
- What is hydroponic green fodder?: It is a system in which green fodder or plants are grown in nutrients rich solutions instead of soil. In this system of growing, plants require sunlight, nutrients, and water. This is very much possible providing all required inputs to grow green fodder in hydroponic system without soil under controlled environment (like small green house). One can easily build the hydroponic system on their own or can buy a hydroponic machine to grow green fodder for Sheep. In hydroponic system, corn / maize, oats, barley, wheat grass, rice / paddy saplings, sorghum can be grown successfully for Sheep. Sheep can use the fodder grown in this system will have grans, roots, stems, and leaves where as in conventionally grown fodder, only stems and roots are used.
Need for hydroponic green fodder for sheep:- Most of the small scale Sheep farmers many not have enough land to grow green fodder and even they may not get the fodder throughout the year in conventional system of growing. Even some farmers may not bear irrigation cost required for green fodder production for Sheep farming. In this situation, Sheep farmers can utilize highly efficient and nutrient system of growing green fodder for Sheep hydroponically. By providing nutrient feed in Sheep on regular basis using hydroponic system will result high yield of milk in dairy Sheep and quick and healthy meat production in meat Sheep.
Advantages / Benefits of hydroponic green fodder for sheep:- If you are planning for commercial Sheep farming, you must consider this system due to the following advantages and benefits.
- Saving water in Sheep green fodder production: It requires just 2 to 3 liters water to produce 1kg of green forage/fodder when compared to 60-75 liters to conventional system of fodder production. Water wastage can be prevented in hydroponics by recycling to grow the fodder.
- Land in sheep fodder production: Hydroponics greenhouse requires marginal land to erect the system of 10 meters x 5 meters land for 650 kg green fodder / day/ unit, in comparison to 1 hectare land for conventional fodder growing.
- Less labour in sheep fodder production: Hydroponic system requires less labour work say 2 to 3 hours/day where as conventional fodder production requires whole day to harvest the fodder.
- Less growing time for sheep fodder: In hydroponic system, it requires just 7 days to obtain nutritious fodder from seed germination to fully grown plant of 30 cm height. Biomass conversion ratio is as high as 8 to 9 times to traditional fodder grown for 60-70 days.
- Growing fodder throughout the year: Irrespective of climatic conditions and other restrictions, fodder for Sheep can be grown all around the year to meet the demand and supply.
- High nutrients: Hydroponic system facilitates the growth of highly nutritious fodder as compared to conventional fodder production. This very much required for dairy Sheep and quick meat production of commercial Sheep farming.
- Natural feed for sheep: Hydroponics is a natural system of growing fodder for Sheep. There is no use of pesticides in this system hence it is free from contamination of milk and milk related products.
- Losing less fodder: Every part of fodder (grans, roots, stems and leaves) is consumed by Sheep without losing any feed produced from hydroponics.
How to setup a hydroponic green fodder system for sheep:- There are two options for Sheep farmers; setting up their own hydroponic system or buy a hydroponic machine.
It is very simple to grow fodder for Sheep in this system. The process consists only soaking of seeds in water and nutrient solutions for few days and leaving it for seed germination under controlled environment (providing sunlight/ temperature and moisture).
- Hydroponic green fodder system components:
- Hydroponic plastic trays.
- Rack or stand to keep trays.
- water sprinkling setup
- Greenhouse shade cloth.
Hydroponic Green Fodder – Setting Up the hydroponic system:- Select the site / land where we want to setup hydroponic system based on quantity of fodder requirement. After selecting the land, it’s time for giving it a greenhouse shape and greenhouse shade cloth is needed for fencing the area. The hydroponic system setup requires a rack system to keep fodder trays and automated water sprinklers which can be used for sprinkling water on trays frequently maintain the temperature for faster germination of fodder seeds. Use wooden or bamboo racks to minimize the cost.
Hydroponic Green Fodder – Steps involved in the system:
- Step #1: Select quality seeds/grains for hydroponic green fodder. You can select maize, wheat, rice, oats, barley, corn. Take 1 kg of grains / seeds and divide it in 2 parts. 1/2 kg of seeds in each tray and clean the grains from dead seeds or broken seeds. Grains should be washed with the solution of sodium hypochlorite and leave the grains for half hour (30 minutes) in the solution. After draining the grains, soak them in fresh water for whole day.
- Step #2: Soaked seeds / grains should be drained properly and left them for 5 hours in open air before placing in the tray and keep the tray in the rack for 2 days to allow the germination process.
- Step #3: After seed germination, frequent water sprinkling is required for growth of the fodder and proper sunlight/temperature should be maintained. You can leave the sprouted seeds in the tray for 5 to 6 days and provide regular and frequent water sprinkling. Once the fodder reaches certain height, you can take it directly from the tray and feed the entire plant to your Sheep. Don’t forget to take the fodder with roots. Initially, your Sheep may not like the taste, combine with other fodder until the Sheep are habituated to hydroponic green fodder.
Nutrient comparison of sheep green fodder: – The following table compares the nutrients of conventionally grown fodder with hydroponic green fodder.
|Type of Nutrients||Conventionally Produced Green Fodder (Maize)||Hydroponic Green Fodder (Maize)|
|Nitrogen Free Extract||51.79||66.78|
|Acid Insoluble Ash||1.42||0.35|
Bottom line of hydroponic green fodder for sheep:- Using hydroponically green fodder / forage /grass is economical and has multiple benefits including quick weight gain in sheep and high milk yield in dairy sheep.